Fall, Dark and Handsome
Well, it's that time of year again. Summer is over, leaves are changing color, sunrise is later than usual, and sunset is earlier than I would like it. The air is much cooler in the morning, crisp, if you will. Your linen sport coat is traded for winter weight wool and damn, you know what is coming: winter!
At this time of year, I crave sherried scotch. I put away those light tasting malts like Cragganmore, Johnnie Walker Green Label, and Glenfiddich 15yrs. Light honey taste must give way to something more warming. Heavy, brooding malts that are warming with lashes of sherry, dark fruits and wood smoke that is not to be trifled with. Balvenie Doublewood 12yrs, The Macallan 12yrs and maybe a real heavy weight will make an appearance like Highland Park 12 or 18yrs.
To that end, I reached for a bottle of Aberlour 12 years, a highland malt that undergoes aging in oak and sherry casks. The result is predominantly sherried.
Cloves, nutmeg and cinnamon sticks.
Initial spiced dark currants, cherry, over-ripe black grapes, transitions mid-palate to a teensy weensy bit raw, unadulterated alcohol. Brackish water comes to mind.
Some smoke. A little green and a tinge of bitterness accompanies the taste of sherry and oak at the end.
What I do like about this malt is how it starts sweet, but nicely transitions to a dry feel by the time of the finish. That is to be commended at the low price point this malt occupies. What I don't like about this scotch is the taste of alcohol mid-palate. The sign of a good scotch is the ability to mask the underlying alcohol content such that the drinker forgets what a strong drink he holds. A good blender of malts will achieve this.
Let me put it another way. If this was a no-age-statement single malt, I wouldn't be complaining or frankly expecting as much of it. But, for a 12 year old single malt, I am expecting a certain level of refinement which means no unpleasant surprises on the palate. Aberlour 12 is a decent single malt, a go-to comfort scotch I suppose for some people, but not by any means an exceptional malt.
This malt also lacks complexity of flavor. Buy this and you are getting a straight forward delivery of sherry, oak, a little heat and raw alcohol. Oh yeah, there is some smoke, some spice, but not great smoke. No Cohiba or H. Upmann here. More like Vantage or Virginia Slims.
Some people are fans of this, but I suspect their affection has more to do with the reasonable price, as opposed to the actual taste. Yes, it is quaffable, but so is Coca-Cola.
Add some water. Some people think it will improve. I am not so sure. Might take a little of the green and bitter elements away leaving in its place the brackish water I mentioned above. You will have to experiment.
In all honesty, I can't recommend Aberlour 12 years Double Cask Matured. When I want a sherried scotch and I do not want to spend a lot of money, I will reach for GlenDronach 12 years every time. Another alternative for a little more money is The Balvenie Doublewood. No green tinge or young alcohol to contend with on the finish with these two suggestions.
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